First settlement in Iceland
Húsavík is the largest town in Þingeyjarsýsla, a prosperous community by the eastern side of Skjálfandi bay. It was here that the Swedish explorer Garðar Svavarsson spent the winter of 870. As Garðar departed Iceland the following spring, 3 people stayed behind; a man called Náttfari along with an unnamed serf and a bondmaid. Despite the sagas’ account of Náttfari’s settlement, first in Náttfaravík across the bay from Húsavík and then in Reykjadalur, history books usually credit Ingólfur Arnarson, who settled in Reykjavík four years later, as Iceland’s first settler.
Húsavík started forming as a village in late 19th century, and from the first, its main industries have been fisheries, the processing of agricultural products and trade.
Whale watching capital
In the recent years tourism has increased considerably with a large number of visitors every year. There are many good reasons why Húsvík is such a popular place to visit: an attractive and scenic natural environment, diverse recreation options, whale watching and proximity to the most highly regarded nature pearls of the region. Húsavík was the first town in Iceland to offer organized whale watching tours and has remained the whale watching capital of Iceland.
Húsavík is a clean and tidy town whose heart beats around the harbour with its remarkable whale museum. The church, built in 1907, stands beside the main street and is regarded as an emblem of the town. Up the street is the museum building with its collection of museums; a regional museum, district archives, museum of natural history, maritime museum and photograph and film archives.
Húsavík provides the visitor with all the basic services and much more: hotel, guesthouses, shops, restaurants, a camping site, a botanical garden, museums, a swimming pool, a golf course and numerous pleasant walking routes. One of the most popular routes, is a walk around the lake Botnsvatn, just above the town, with the option of free angling.
The summit of Húsavíkurfjall mountain offers a panoramic view of the surroundings. On a clear day it is possible to see as far south as Vatnajökull glacier.
South of Húsavík is Reykjahverfi, where there is extensive greenhouse cultivation by means of geothermal heating as well as a swimming pool and a community centre. Its main geothermal source is at Hveravellir from where geothermal water is piped to Húsavík, providing central heating for all the buildings in the town.
At the nearby Tjörnes peninsula, between Skjálfandi bay and Öxarfjörður are some of the most remarkable fossil layers in Iceland. These are sandstone layers which were formed at the end of the Tertiary period and during the Ice Age. The oldest fossil layers contain shell species which now live only in warm seas off the coasts of Western Europe. From these fossils it is possible to trace changes in climate, vegetation and marine life from the beginning of the Ice Age.
Mánárbakki farm is the location of a unique folk museum and a meteorological station where the Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) have been studied for years under the auspices of a Japanese research institute.